Working Paper
Lessons from the Transition Economies

Putting the Success Stories of the Postcommunist World into a Broader Perspective

Why many transition economies succeeded by pursuing policies that are so different from the radical economic liberalization (shock therapy) that is normally credited for the economic success of central European countries? First, optimal policies are context dependent, they are specific for each stage of development and what worked in Slovenia cannot be expected to work in Mongolia. Second, even for countries at the same level of development, reforms needed to stimulate growth are different; they depend on the previous history and on the path chosen. The reduction of government expenditure as a share of GDP did not undermine significantly the institutional capacity of the state in China, but in Russia and other CIS states it turned out to be ruinous. It is the growth diagnostics that should reveal the missing ingredient for economic growth. Finally, and most important, introducing this ‘missing ingredient’ should not result in the destruction of other preconditions for growth. The art of the policymaker is to create markets without causing the government failure, as happened in many CIS countries.